February 17, 2013 - 1:00am

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Sunday criticized the visit by Hamas lawmakers to Bulgaria, which was ended Friday with Bulgarian security forces kicking out the delegation.

The Hamas officials, who arrived in Sofia Wednesday, did not coordinate for their visit with the PNA or the "official sides in Bulgaria," said Riad Al-Maliki, Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, "This has harmed the Palestinian-Bulgarian relations as well as our relations with Europe."

Al-Maliki said Hamas was trying to open to the West at the expense of the PNA and the Palestinian leadership, rejecting a statement by one of the lawmakers, Salah Al-Bardaweel, who accused the PNA of urging Bulgaria to expel the Hamas delegation.

Hamas and the mainstream Fatah party, which dominates the PNA, are locked up in a power struggle. In 2007, Hamas routed forces loyal to PNA President Mahmoud Abbas and ousted his Fatah movement, taking over the Gaza Strip and leaving Abbas' rule confined to the West Bank.

On Friday, Bulgarian security forces stormed the hotel where the three Hamas officials were staying, and transferred them to the airport.

Upon the arrival of the delegation to Bulgaria, Hamas said the visit was unprecedented for involving an European Union country. The EU classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization for refusing to recognize Israel.

The EU insists that Hamas recognize Israel, respect peace deals and renounce violence to be removed from the terrorist organizations' list.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017